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PORTLAND TRANSIT CHALLENGE


TriMet WES Type: Heavy rail commuter rail Service: Peak hours M-F only (8 hours/day)


Size: 14.2 miles Routes: 1 Fleet: 6 cars: 3 Colorado Railcar DMU, 1 Colorado Railcar trailer, 2 Budd RDC


Ridership: 370,080 (FY 2011) First line: February 2009


LEFT: With only minutes to spare, the chal- lengers make it to the last southbound WES at Beaverton, making the last leg back to- wards the starting point of the day at Wilsonville. DAN HANECKOW


dash across the bus aprons to the WES platform. It’s 7:34: with one minute to spare, we make our last connection.


7:39 p.m.


“It’s been eighteen


transfers,” I state as our WES train speeds south through the twilight. “Counting all the out-and-backs, that’s almost 140 miles ridden today.” Relaxing in the cushy seats, we chalk


ABOVE: TriMet 119, one of the original order light rail vehicles recently rebuilt by the agency, takes on passengers at Beaverton Transit Center. BTC is one of a number of key transfer points that TriMet calls “Transit Cen- ters,” and is where WES and MAX inter- face.DAN HANECKOW LEFT: The author, aboard a westbound MAX in downtown Portland, con- sults his watch. The last southbound WES train, integral to completing the challenge, is set to depart Beaverton Transit Center, eight miles away, at 7:35 pm. ALEXANDER B. CRAGHEAD


7:22, and we approach the eastern mouth of the Robertson Tunnel. I do the math in my head: How much time does the tunnel take again? We stop at Washington Park, where the doors hang open for precious moments while nobody seems to either board or de- board. They close again, we move again. Daylight, and the descent to


Sunset Transit Center. It’s 7:30, WES will leave Beaverton for the last time in five minutes. Sunset TC: Train stops, doors open, doors close. Moving. 7:33. We’re sailing past the freeway traffic out the window but it still feels slow. We glide into Beaverton. The doors


open, and we make our way out through the throng of passengers and


up our lessons — such as not starting from Wilsonville again — but more than that the prospects for the next challenge. In Autumn of 2012 the Port- land Streetcar is slated to open a new route on the eastern bank of the Willamette, effectively double their system. Meanwhile, TriMet is busily constructing a new bridge over the Willamette River in South Waterfront, part of a 7.3 mile extension of MAX to the suburb of Milwaukie, with an ex- pected opening in 2015. After that? Conceptual planning for


a MAX line to Tigard and Sherwood is underway, and a long-sought new In- terstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River, if funded, will extend the Yellow Line to Vancouver, Washington. The 2011 challenge had proven that the Portland metro area still has a ways to go before its rail transit was too large to ride in one day. With all of these planned extensions, however, the idea of it reaching such a size no longer seems so remote. In the meanwhile? “I wonder....” says


Dan, with an obsessive gleam in his eyes. “If we caught a morning Amtrak Cascades train north... Could we get all of Seattle in?”


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